The Imps have never won at the Valley, and one wonders had we come through Saturday’s game at Peterborough with a win, if that would no longer be the case.
We didn’t, we drew and that means the play-offs are guaranteed. Last night, that gave Michael Appleton the chance to shuffle the pack a bit, preparing the squad for the headline games later in May. The result was a tough watch for those at home, maybe even the worst £10 I’ve spent on iFollow all season. Mind you, with no Johnson, Rogers, McGrandles, Bridcutt or Hopper in the starting line up and Joe Walsh only just coming back into the side, it was a makeshift lincoln City team that took to the field looking to end the hoodoo.
I’m not going to come on here and start throwing out such lines as ‘not good enough’, ‘lost momentum’ or any of the other overreactions I’ve seen around social media this morning. I hate losing just as much as anyone, it stains me like coffee on a white table cloth and is often tough to get out even after a win the following weekend, but I had an element of not caring too much last night. When Charlton scored I didn’t feel that sick in my stomach I did when Rochdale, Fleetwood or Swindon scored against us earlier in the season. there was more a feeling of ‘okay, that’s happened, what next?’. Next, well, that was two more goals, leading me to want to turn off the television and walk away. Lincoln City have better things to do than exert too much effort in a meaningless game against Charlton and after 80 minutes, I felt I had better things to do than watch them do it.
I still paid my £10, knowing what was coming. I still sat through their goals, because that is what fans do. I didn’t even feel bitter when I heard Sky Bet were showing the Imps game for free on their website because I’ve paid for every game this season and I’m not about to moan about the club having a tenner of my money. If I moan about the performance, it is because I’ve watched it, not listened on the radio or got a two-minute collection of clips from Sky Sports News. We lost 3-1, but am I moaning? No, I’m not. I’m pragmatic and I understand where this fits in relation to the season.
What I did find disappointing, to a certain degree, was the assertion by Michael after the game that players who were auditioning for the play-offs failed their audition. It wasn’t Michael assertion I found disappointing, he’s right, they did struggle, but I fear it may lead to a backlash against certain players who I feel have plenty of reason for their recent form. I think rather than try to take you through a trying 90 minutes of football, I’d look at those players, and why they may have struggled of late.
The main one I think has really struggled post-Christmas is James Jones. He came under fire on social media after last night’s game and I can see why, like eight or nine of the others on the pitch, he wasn’t great. The problem for Jones is he hasn’t been involved in the games where we’ve done well, so fans simply do a quick subtraction, players who played Saturday from those who did not, and the ones left get a bit of a kicking. Actually, if you watch Jones’ performance, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t match-winning either. His passing stats, according to Wyscout, were 47 attempted, 35 completed, an average of 74%. His average for the whole season is 36.11 per game with 79.5% of those completed, so he was about average. Of his total actions, 47 from 82 were successful, 57%, only marginally down on his average of 59.5%. That might be stat heavy for you, but the fact is he wasn’t as bad as some have made out.
Also, I think he has to be cut some slack given what happened to him over the winter. We’re under the impression he was one of the players affected by Covid and since his return, he’s been a little off the pace. Unless you’ve had Covid and suffered the effects afterwards, it really isn’t your place to tell him he’s ‘not good enough’, as I saw on social media. I do think after last night he might only be seen as a late sub in the play-off matches, if at all, but I back him to come back fitter and stronger next season.
Callum Morton didn’t start at the weekend but did start last night, and of course, that has led to a bit of stick online too. I’d be lying if I said I thought he played well last night, his touch looked awry at times and he was shackled by the Charlton defenders well. The Callum Morton we saw for Northampton bags one, if not both of his glorious chances last night, and if that happens then it is a different result altogether. The first goal was utterly crucial against the Addicks, if we got it, I think they panic and we maybe go on to win. If they got it, then confidence grows and the result goes their way.
Actually, Morton’s efforts showed an improvement on recent matches: since scoring against Sunderland he’s had seven shots, with just one on target against Bristol Rovers. In the 2-2 draw with Blackpool and the 4-0 win against MK Dons, he didn’t get a single effort at goal, and he got just one off target against Shrewsbury and two off-target against Burton. In the Burton game, he was given Man of the Match by Michael Hortin (I think) for the way he fought their centre-halves, so it isn’t always about shots.
However, I concede he could have finished one of his chances last night, on target on not, and I think he is a bench warmer for the play-offs. Again, in his defence, he missed five months of the season with injury, and he’s playing out of his normal position. He isn’t a hold-up striker like Tom Hopper, he isn’t a false nine and yet he has been put there during Tom’s spell out and again last night. Granted, it hasn’t always worked and last night he didn’t have a good game, but again labelling him ‘not good enough’ is a fallacy. In the right system, he is comfortably a League One striker, but I fear that system is not the one we play.
Next Page – Defending More Players and Conclusion